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Report From PIA – May 12

Yes, these three things are linked.

When I was at the garden center today, a customer came in who was very concerned that there were “bugs on the peonies.” After some discussion, we determined that these were probably ants. These insects feed on the sugar-rich plant juices that peony buds exude. Contrary to popular myth, ants do not help peony buds to open, but neither do they cause any harm.

What was typical about this customer’s concern was the immediate assumption that the “bugs” were bad, and the situation needed to be treated in some way. When faced with insects in the garden, many people assume that they need to be eliminated as soon as possible.

Later today, once I was home, I read an email from the American Nursery and Landscape Association. One of the links in this newsletter led to a short article at Retail Consumer Experience about how to respond if people bash your brand on social media sites such as facebook.

Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer senior analyst, was quoted about ways to respond, but the end of the article had, for me, the most important advice. Grau said that some retailers see negative criticism as an opportunity to learn and connect with customers. Instead of being defensive, these businesses believe that, “Customers are not adversaries but partners to be treated with respect.”

Amen! If disgruntled customers are blogging about a grievance on facebook, twitter or their blogs, maybe it’s wise to first view these posts as valuable data.

What if we could take this same approach in all areas of our lives? We could, perhaps, use times when family members or co-workers are oppositional as opportunities to grow.

When bugs appear in the garden, what if we could first approach the insects as, “partners to be treated with respect.” We are, after all, connected to everything else in our landscapes and beyond. We’re associates with the rest of the world, and even in a small garden have many opportunities to grow, and treat it all with respect.

Ants don't help these buds to open, but they don't hurt either. Whether you have ants on your peony buds or not, your flowers should develop just fine.

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